KUCHING: The goods and services tax (GST) should not be imposed on domestic flights in Sarawak.
In a statement, SUPP Youth Chief Tan Kai pointed out air travel was the only option for many Sarawakians.
“This is because Sarawak has poor road infrastructure connecting its cities, towns and villages. There are places where transportation by air is the only access to the outside world,” said the electrical engineer.
“Many rural Sarawakians still suffer from poor access to better developed urban areas.
“It is only fair that they should enjoy GST-free domestic airfare at all times -- until road infrastructure improves,” Tan added.
Among better-known areas in Sarawak that are inaccessible by road is Mulu National Park and highland villages like Ba’Kelalan, which is adjacent to the Indonesian border
The second-term youth chief said domestic flights to and from Sarawak should also be GST-exempt to promote national integration.
“Subjecting GST to domestics flights to Sarawak will not encourage national harmony between east and west Malaysia. Sarawakians and Sabahans have no alternative but to fly to Kuala Lumpur.”
Under the present GST structure, all domestic flights are charged GST but not international flights.
Air travel to most rural areas in the state is operated by MASwings, a subsidiary of the national air carrier, using turboprop aircraft.
In Sarawak, construction of the Pan Borneo Highway (to be built over the existing trunk road) has only just began, and will not be completed until at least 2023.
However, the highway route, which mainly snakes along the coast, still bypasses a large number of settlements in the hinterland.
The Government estimates there are more than 5,000 villages (including longhouses) in sparsely populated Sarawak, making infrastructure building a challenge
On a related matter, Tan called on the Government to improve the GST hotline service (1800-886-800) by employing more operators.
He claimed the present wait time was too long and it was difficult to get through.